This is one of my favorite photos from 2022, taken in November. Yes, it’s a selfie, but this was a moment I wanted to capture. I felt so (this is hard for me to say) proud of myself.
In this photo, I am sitting at a train stop in London on my way to the airport. I don’t have much travel experience, so this was all very new to me. I couldn’t believe little ol’ me was navigating an unfamiliar public transit system abroad before flying home all by myself.
Two years prior, my world was microscopic.
I was freshly widowed and living in the basement of my parents’ house with my three dogs, Noodle, Benny, and Magpie. Thanks to my mom and dad, whom I could never adequately thank, I had few responsibilities. The refrigerator was always full, the coffee seemed to brew itself, and I reverted to a lifestyle much like I had in high school — only instead of going to school and making smoothies (Blender Tender! It’s recurring!), I dealt with Administrative Death Stuff™ and did freelance writing and marketing.
We were in the throes of pre-vaccine COVID-19, so nobody was doing much. Plus, my social circle had become small because, frankly, people don’t know what to do with widows. In addition to our own grief, widows struggle to process the effects of other people’s awkwardness — which in most cases is silence. (Note: This isn’t a judgment, just a fact.)
But that day in London, my world was big and exciting.
That morning, for the first time in my life, I woke up in a foreign country by myself. My boyfriend, John, had an earlier flight back to Atlanta, so he was well on his way. I had hours before I needed to be anywhere. I went to breakfast at the hotel, where I was wowed by the selection of individually wrapped cheeses. I left the dining room with five or six cheeses in my pockets — because you never know when you’ll be in a cheese emergency. (I accidentally left my prized cheese possessions in the hotel room minifridge. I will never forgive myself for that.)
After breakfast, I browsed Google Maps to see what was nearby, eager to buy earrings or some other memento from the trip. The moment felt significant as I walked solo through the hotel lobby for my adventure. I knew Ramón would be happy for me, and I could feel his presence. As I stepped out onto the street, a bus went by — number 57 to be exact. Ramón’s birthday was May 7 (5/7), and I frequently see that number in unexpected places. I excitedly tried to photograph the bus — to capture proof that Ramón was by my side.
I’d seen a place on the map called Pimlico Trove, which was exactly what I hoped it would be. It was a little shop filled with things made by local artists. I found earrings and also bought a keychain, a coaster, note cards, a beanie, a coffee mug, some pins, and who knows what else.
After my shopping spree, I made my way back to the hotel to pack up and get ready to head to the airport. As I walked, I wondered if people could tell I was a tourist. A part of me wished they knew how momentous this occasion felt. Two years earlier, whenever I so much as passed a person while walking the dogs, I wanted to announce, “FYI, I’m a widow,” just to remind them there’s so much more than meets the eye.
The Drew that lived in my parents’ basement could never have imagined the me that sat at that train station in London — feeling confident, invigorated, and strong.
When my world felt so small two years ago, it was easy to hyperfocus on the ways my life had derailed.
Seeing how my world has expanded since, I realize I’m on the right track.